Kennebunk High School Interact Club members Kaia Wirth, Katie Braddick and Sam McGrath display violets they potted up for residents at Kennebunk Center for Health and Rehabilitation. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – Velvety violets tucked into a terracotta pot decorated with designs hand painted by a group of teenagers can make a difference – by brightening  an afternoon, and providing beauty for months to come.

The teens are members of the Interact Club at Kennebunk High School. Their gifts were to residents at Kennebunk Center for Health and Rehabilitation.

Mary Brackley, a resident at Kennebunk Center for Health and Rehabilitation, enjoys a violet, planted in a pot decorated with hearts at a recent outdoor event with KHS Interact students. The young people secured the plants and the pots and painted them, and planted them while conversing with residents on a recent day. Tammy Wells photo

It was a late spring day, and more than half a dozen residents were outside as they watched the teenagers plant the violets in the hand-painted pots and then offered them up as gifts.

The pots of pink, blue and purple violets brought smiles – as did the interaction with the young people.

“They’re beautiful,” said resident Mary Brackley, of her violets nestled into a pot painted with hearts. As she recalled past flower gardens at her home, she said this plant was destined for her bedside table.

Another woman smiled with delight at the pink blooms on her plant.

Interact clubs come under the helm of Rotary and are designed to provide leadership skills to young people age 12 to 18.

There had been an Interact club at KHS previously, but it went on hiatus after an advisor departed, said Katie Braddick who was named president when Interact emerged again a couple of months ago. About 40 young people are involved.

“We wanted to do something at the nursing home because everyone was so isolated during COVID,” said Braddick. She said the violet plants were donated to the group and members wanted to make the gifts more personal, so they painted the flower pots.

They chose violets because they’re long-lasting, she said.

The event was  among several the group has taken up in the short time they’ve been active. They have volunteered at Partners for World Health, a Portland-based organization that donates medical supplies worldwide; removed brush and otherwise cleaned up debris  a Kennebunkport Conservation Trust trail and conducted a cleanup at Goose Rocks Beach.

KHS Interact Club student Sam McGrath offers potted violets to Kennebunk Center for Health and Rehabilitation residents Francis and Helen Wilson on a recent day. Club members arrived with plants, potting soil and pots they’d decorated themselves and set to work outside, while some residents watched and chatted in the sunshine Tammy Wells photo

Club members chatted and laughed with residents as they potted up the plants. There were smiles, and some light conversation – an interaction.

There were plants for all – the folks outside, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine and the company of the club members, and for those inside the nursing care facility.

Kaia Wirth said with the club so active, there are many projects from which members can choose to become involved.

“It’s nice to be able to go out and help, any way you can,” Wirth said.

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